Supporting in League of Legends hasn’t been regarded as the most glamorous role available over the years. That was especially true in the early years of the game, when a support’s role was simply to buy a Sightstone and maintain wards across the map.
Those were the worst days to be a support – when you were considered a ward bot and nothing more. Nowadays, however, supporting has taken on a new life and a new meaning. It’s much more difficult, sure, but now, you can influence the map, control the game’s pace and the rhythm of teamfights, and, of course, you still need to ward.
“I feel like the support is kind of a second jungler,” Splyce’s Tore Hoel "Norskeren" Eilertsen tells us. “You can impact a lot of lanes with roams, vision, and more.”
Sound fun? Sure it does. But before you dive into practicing the role, there’s a lot of information you should learn and remember to make your life easier. For example, did you know there are several different archetypes of supports, that they counter one another in a specific order, and that the stronger archetype can change every other week? There are also warding strategies to consider, runes, when to focus on peeling vs. initiating, and balancing shields/healing with zoning an enemy ADC off of minions.
All of that and more is in our Support guide, as told to us by the pros.
Before you get into any strategies or support methodology, knowing which champions to pick is the very first thing you need to get a grip on if you plan to tackle this role.
In general, there are three major archetypes of support champions. There are the enchanters, which are healers and shielders. Then we have the playmakers, which are packed with some form of mobility or heavy crowd control. And finally, mages, whose job it is to simply deal a lot of damage from afar. Some champions can be a mix of several archetypes, and some champions that weren’t built for one role can be forced into another. For example, if you’ve ever seen a pro play Ashe support, Ashe fills the role of a mage in-lane by dishing out heavy poke damage, despite not building like a mage at all. Meanwhile, someone like Nami can be considered as a mix of all three archetypes – dealing solid harass damage, making plays with her bubble, and healing the ADC.
“When you play Yuumi, you have a good laning phase, poke, you have sustain, and you have engage,” Vitality support Jakub "Jactroll" Skurzyński explains. “It’s a very complete package. Depending on the champion, support can be the most important role.”
These archetypes of supports follow a triangle system. The poke/mage champions counter the playmakers, because the mage can easily poke a playmaker down before they have a chance to engage. Playmakers counter the enchanters, because it’s difficult to heal or shield quick enough to avoid a massive engage from someone like Thresh or Leona. And enchanters counter the mages, because they can heal and shield to protect from incoming poke damage at the same rate that mages can dish it out. Depending on your situation, or your personal preferences, the archetype of champion you pick can vary.
When you’re playing a strong bot side, you can play like poke champions like Lux or Karma, paired with high-range, good-in-lane ADCs like Caitlyn, Varus and Ashe,” Norskeren says. “Playing champions like this, though, you are really vulnerable to ganks, so it might not be good in solo queue. You can’t guarantee your jungler can play around you, so it's probably better to play crowd control/roam champions.”
Runes and Summoner Spells
Runes and Summoner Spells for supports are rather straightforward, thankfully. For Summoner Spells, there isn’t ever going to be a good reason for anyone that isn’t a pro to take anything but Flash and either Ignite or Exhaust. Even pros very rarely deviate from those three, either, and they only do when there’s a particularly good reason.
Runes are a hair more complicated, but even they aren’t too bad. We won’t get into any minor rune choices, as those change with each champion you pick and we recommend looking up a specific champion guide on your desired champ to learn those. Instead, we’ll just talk about the major runes that supports take in most situations. The most common, and the ones you’ll almost always use, are Aftershock, Summon Aery, Arcane Comet, and Guardian, with little to no breathing room.
Aftershock is best used by almost any dedicated playmaker. Alistar, Thresh, Pyke, Blitzcrank, Leona, you name it, Aftershock is great on all of them. It gives them a massive defensive bonus when they engage in a fight, allowing them to distract the enemy and soak frontline damage for much longer. Summon Aery and Guardian can be interchangeable for enchanter supports, as they both boost your healing/shielding. Typically, you want Aery if you’re an enchanter that needs to deal some damage, and Guardian if you want to zero in on protection. Rakan, Taric, and Soraka are a few that may take Guardian over Aery. And finally, Comet is for the damage dealers. Brand, Lux, Zyra, and the list goes on.
The responsibilities of a support player are vast, and they may make the role seem a little intimidating to newcomers. At first glance, the job might seem easy due to the lack of farming, but there are more than enough other responsibilities to make up for it.
Ah, warding. This is the first job that comes to most people’s minds when they think of supporting, because, well, it’s been the support’s job for the game’s entire history. It’s more of a team responsibility now, but the support still bears most of the burden. Warding is easier than you’d think, though, and with some very basic steps, you’ll be off to a great start.
“Playing many solo queue games to learn all the important warding spots for different stages of the game (early, mid, late) is very important,” FC Schalke 04 support Lee "IgNar" Dong-geun explains. “You also need to think about offensive and defensive warding for different stages of the game.”
To follow on from what IgNar says, you want to split your warding up into three stages – the early game, the mid game, and late game. Your laning phase consists of your early game, so you want to make sure you’re keeping vision in your river, in the tri-bush connecting the jungle to your lane and the river, and in some cases, in the bushes in your lane.
The mid game is where it becomes your responsibility to ward the map. Typically, a good rule of thumb for new supports is to not ward past your outermost tower. For example, if your first top tower has fallen, you typically just want wards inside your top jungle, rather than out into the river, because you shouldn’t be out that far anyway without good reason. You’ll want to focus on warding upcoming objectives, too, like Baron and Dragon.
In the late game, Baron is more important, and the wards you place should be set up based on where you’ve been tracking the enemy the most throughout the game. If you’ve learned they favor the bot side, you’ll need more wards on the bot side at this point. Warding lanes themselves can help, too, depending on how much fog of war is between you and your enemy, as more towers have likely fallen by now.
Playmaking vs. Peeling, and Poking vs. Protecting
The great balance that a support player needs to strike in any game, regardless of champion, is how much they focus on protection vs. how much they focus on controlling fights. This begins in-lane, and it carries all the way through the mid-game and into the late game.
In the bot lane, it may be less important to protect the carry, as it’ll only be a 2 vs 2 until the jungler or mid lane come down to visit. In that case, you can spend more time engaging as a playmaker or more time poking as an enchanter. But when mid game rolls around, when the fights involve three to five other players consistently, you need to strike that balance. That’s when the playmaker should spend more of their tools keeping baddies off the carry, and it’s when the enchanters should hover around the carry to protect them with shields and healing. Mages can pretty much only deal damage, so for them, it becomes an issue of target selection. Do they go for the squishy target on the enemy back line, or the Riven that’s diving the carry? The answer changes with the state of the game.
“One of the biggest misconceptions about supports is that they’re an AD’s slave,” Norskeren says. “You can impact other lanes a lot by roaming and timing it well with minion waves… you can just leave the lane and try to get a gank off midlane, roam with the jungler, or even gank top if you have a lot of time.”
As it’s always the support’s job to help keep carries alive, it’s also their job to impact the map. By figuring out when to transition into protection and when to focus on aggression, you can get a leg up on your solo queue competition.
Climbing as a support
Now that you’re ready to get started, you have to decide how you want to get started. Do you want to focus on counter-picking the enemy, or do you want to just pick one or two champions to main to learn the role? Different pros have different thoughts on the matter, so it’s important to learn their insight and then decide for yourself.
“Counter-pick,” IgNar says, for example. “It’s always easier to win lane if you counter-pick.”
Norskeren, on the other hand, says, “I think it's much better to focus on learning a couple of champions, because it becomes easier to learn how to play the game in general if you don’t have to focus on a new champion’s mechanics.”
For others, the answer may be somewhere in the middle. Learning only one champion of each archetype, for instance, can be useful, because you have a counter pick for most situations, but you still limit how many champions you’re taking on all at once. There’s a lot to remember in League, no matter what role you play, and by mastering it one champion at a time, you can make your life a lot easier.